When the end comes, it comes slowly at first, and then very quickly. John McEnroe, who won all of his grand slam singles titles within a five-year period, believes that Roger Federer, perhaps the greatest player of all time, has come to the end of his major-winning days.
The issue, McEnroe says, is that the competition is both broad and deep. With Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic waiting in every single grand slam, the challenge to win another is obvious and substantial. Federer enters next week's U.S. Open seeded seventh, the first time he's been outside the top three in a decade.
"To me, it's obviously going to be a lot more difficult at this stage," McEnroe said on a conference call in advance of the U.S. Open. "I don't see at this stage him being able to go through all seven (rounds) and have to beat at least two of these three guys."
Federer, now 32, has won 17 grand slams in his career, but only one (Wimbledon 2012) since 2010. And it's Wimbledon, McEnroe suggests, where Federer will have the potential for success for some time to come.
"There are certainly scenarios where he could easily still get late into an event and even to a final," McEnroe said. "Andre (Agassi) got to the final of the Open at 35, so there's no reason to believe he couldn't do it. At Wimbledon I could see him going late into an event, a final. I could see it on a hard court...but I personally think that at this stage it's going to be quite, quite difficult for him to win another one."
The U.S. Open begins on Monday. Get ready, Roger.